In our spiritual path we need to overcome the tendency of judgment to others and also, we need to develop discrimination. Can you explain how to know the difference?
—Viviana Daniel, United States
Excellent question, Viviana.
You can know the difference by stopping for a moment and feeling in your heart: If it’s calm, relaxed, and open to the other person, you’re being discerning. If it feels nervous, agitated, contracted, or closed to the other person, there’s probably judgment.
To explain a bit more, discriminating/discerning is about gaining insight on the basis of objective information, whereas judgment adds a blanket statement, usually based on emotions of the moment. For example, “Maria forgot to lock the door” (discerning) vs. “Maria is a space case” (judging). Or “Juan’s socks don’t match today” vs. “Juan is sloppy.” Or “Laura made an unkind remark” vs. “Laura is unkind.”
When we see someone make a mistake, it’s discernment to recognize that it was a mistake. But it’s judgment if we, therefore, label the person as stupid, incompetent, unkind, etc.
Judgment is discouraged, not only because it’s “not nice” but because it feeds negativity within ourselves and contracts our consciousness. It also limits our understanding of the other person, for it ignores positive qualities or actions that might dwarf any shortcomings of the moment.
Discernment is essential for making decisions in our lives, but judgmentalism is optional — and a poor option at that.